presented without comment
I’ll comment, then. Ladies and gentlemen, this is what happiness looks like.
Twelve-year-old Sunny lives in Nigeria, but she was born American. Her features are African, but she’s albino. She’s a terrific athlete, but can’t go out into the sun to play soccer. There seems to be no place where she fits. And then she discovers something amazing—she is a “free agent,” with latent magical power. Soon she’s part of a quartet of magic students, studying the visible and invisible, learning to change reality. But will it be enough to help them when they are asked to catch a career criminal who knows magic too?
Oh Penguin, your designers make my heart and eyes very happy. I love this. I love the fonts, and I love that the African-American protagonist is the focal point of the cover. No whitewashing here! I love that she looks how she is described—twelve years old, African, albino, magical. I especially love the colors. They’re bright and eye-catching without being obnoxious, smoothed into living, organic shapes that (in my opinion) work well with the promised magic. Also, she’s holding a knife. I’m a sucker for knives on a cover.
Harshaw (and “Oncat”), my favorite Inferi from Leigh Bardugo's Ruin and Rising. I had to guess at his eye color a bit.
Can’t stop. Won’t stop. Gonna be a Grisha week.
HARSHAW!!! First Harshaw and Oncat fanart. Oh I love this so so so much!!!
OMG I had such a blast reading about Harshaw and Oncat! I just loved them.
Aw, Harshaw, my wee little pyromaniac.
Newly arrived in New Fiddleham, New England, 1892, and in need of a job, Abigail Rook meets R. F. Jackaby, an investigator of the unexplained with a keen eye for the extraordinary–including the ability to see supernatural beings. Abigail has a gift for noticing ordinary but important details, which makes her perfect for the position of Jackaby’s assistant. On her first day, Abigail finds herself in the midst of a thrilling case: A serial killer is on the loose. The police are convinced it’s an ordinary villain, but Jackaby is certain it’s a nonhuman creature, whose existence the police–with the exception of a handsome young detective named Charlie Cane–deny.
Doctor Who meets Sherlock in William Ritter’s debut novel, which features a detective of the paranormal as seen through the eyes of his adventurous and intelligent assistant in a tale brimming with cheeky humor and a dose of the macabre.
Sigh. Siggghhhhhhhhh. Sometimes after a book like this, sighing is the only thing I can do. It’s the only thing I want to do, because heaven only knows that apathetic reviews are the hardest reviews to write.
“Apathetic?” you may ask. “But Shae! Doctor Who meets Sherlock! That’s YOU!” I know. I KNOW. And, as far as comparisons go, those two really aren’t so bad. There are elements of both shows in Jackaby; unfortunately, those elements failed to coalesce into something great for me.
Our protagonist, Abigail Rook, is just the kind of plucky, adventurous lass that would make an admirable companion to the Doctor. She’s run away from home to participate in archaeological digs (while dressed as a boy, no less), but, having found the digs less romantic than she had envisioned, took a boat across the pond from Europe to New Fiddleham, New England. There we meet her on the docks, newsboy cap perched jauntily atop her head, completely broke, and alone. She steps into a pub to get warm and there meets the town’s most eccentric citizen, paranormal investigator R.F. Jackaby. Jackaby can see things that no one else can, including the tiny sprites living (he says) in Abigail’s hat and coat. He later leaves, but they meet again when Abigail responds to his advertisement seeking an assistant. Before she can bat her eyes, they’re off to investigate the mysterious death of a local who was ripped apart by someone… or something.
The beginning was a promising bit of fun for me. Abigail charmed me right off. Anyone who sports a newsboy cap and has an affinity for archaeology and dinosaurs is a kindred spirit of mine. I was also cautiously interested in the eccentric Mr. Jackaby. I loved the little creatures he described to Abigail (since we’re in her head, we don’t actually get to see them), and I giggled like a madwoman when Abigail arrived at his office and upset his frog. Seriously, when an advertisement plainly states not to stare at the frog, DON’T STARE AT THE FROG.
Throughout the book, I also found tidbits to enjoy. Jackaby’s house, for instance, is home to more than just him alone. It’s filled with trappings and artifacts from cases and Jackaby’s own collections, as well as Jenny the host and Douglas the duck-who-used-to-be-human. The two characters were fairly insubstantial, but I liked the idea of Jackaby’s home being a haven to the more peaceable of the paranormal creatures of New Fiddleham. I also enjoyed the various connections he made around town, the most prominent of which is Hatun, the lovely (but slightly batty) little old lady who feeds fish to trolls and owns an invisibility cloak of sorts.
Unfortunately, that about sums up the extent of my enjoyment. It isn’t that I disliked the book, but rather that I found little to cling to. Take Jackaby, for instance. I liked him, but only in an abstract kind of way. As a Sherlock character, he fails. He notices very little and pieces together even less. His insights come from his observation of paranormal remnants (auras and the like), which doesn’t translate well to the audience. His main Sherlockian quality is his disdain for those who can’t keep up with him intellectually, despite the fact that it’s hardly their fault that they’re not versed in the various classifications of supernatural creatures. Thankfully, he’s less vitrolic about his disdain than Sherlock, erring on the side of absently baffled instead. In manner, he swings more closely to a version of the Doctor, though I can’t decide which. I pictured him as Capaldi, though we’re never given a good estimate of his age. He is absent-minded, esoteric, and often silly because of those qualities. He also has moments of deep outrage over injustice, as well as tenderer moments for the mistreated creatures that cross his path. But despite all that, I couldn’t connect with him. He was too abstract, too unknowable, too much of a sketch rather than a person for me to feel anything for our titular character.
Abigail was much the same. Like I said, at first she came off as the perfect companion, but after a while, I realized how very… hollow she is. We’re inside her head and yet I found little to amuse, entertain, or enchant me. She’s cardboard, a smiling thing made to follow the smart man around and get herself into scrapes. I began to picture her as Clara Oswin Oswald, which, if you know me and my Doctor Who tastes at all, is not a good thing. Her voice didn’t feel right, somehow, and I needed more of an interior for her, more life, more pizazz. This girl ran away from home to dig for dinosaurs, for heaven’s sake! She’s backpacked all around Europe on her own. She’s in America with no money, no connections, and yet refuses to go to her parents for help. Surely she should have more thoughts flying around in her head, more emotions, more impulses and stored histories and memories and… well, life.
Instead, Clara Abigail spends most of her time wondering futilely about what is killing the citizens of New Fiddleham and mooning over police detective Charlie Cane. Good heavens, even if Charlie Cane was doing naked handstands in the street, he wouldn’t merit the amount of thought given to him by our narrator. Sure, he’s cute (says Abigail) and he’s relatively nice, but there’s nothing special about him. YOU ONLY MET HIM A FEW DAYS AGO, WOMAN.
The plot itself was… fine? Since I spent most of the booth apathetically nudging the cardboard characters to see if they would fall over, I couldn’t get into the plot. One of the problems of being a character-centric reader, I guess. The villain is transparently obvious, so much of the mystery centers around why and how. Actually, the why is fairly obvious as well, and I thought the how was also, but that ended up being a bit of a fakeout. So, congratulations on that, I guess?
I wish Jackaby had been more of a success. I had such high hopes. But, in the end, it failed to elicit much of a response from me. I would have even taken negative emotions in order to care just a little. Oh well. Guess you can’t win ‘em all.
Favorite Non-Spoilery Quote:
“I don’t exactly believe in all this… this… this occult business. I don’t believe in house spirits, or goblins, or Santa Claus!”
“Well, of course not, that’s silliness. Not the spirits or goblins, of course, but the Santa nonsense.”
It wasn’t that I did not believe in ghosts; it was that I believed in them in the same noncommittal way that I believed in giant squids or lucky coins or Belgium. They were things that probably existed, but I had never given any occasion to really care one way or another.
“Hatun sees a different world than you or I, a far more frightening one, full of far more terrible dangers, and still she chooses to be the hero whom that world needs. She has saved this town and its people from countless monsters countless times. That the battles are usually in her head does not lessen the bravery of it. The hardest battles always are.”
Points Added For: The frog, Douglas and Jenny, the core concept (if not the execution).
Points Subtracted For: The emphasis on Charlie Cane, cardboard characters, Abigail’s lack of interior.
Good For Fans Of: Paranormal creatures (so maybe scaredy-cat Supernatural fans?), Clara Oswin Oswald.
Notes For Parents: Some light language, murder.
Note: I received a review copy from the publisher for review consideration.
So @TheCapitolPN tweeted this
which was promptly deleted. (G-Bb-A-D are the notes to Rue’s whistle.)
But if you had clicked inspect element before it was deleted
"You silence our voices, but we are still heard."
HOW COOL IS THIS MARKETING?!?! Like the rebels are hacking into the capitol’s twitter!!!!
HOLY INSPIRED MARKETING, BATMAN!
Man, I have so many of these. SO MANY. Like, “1200+ books on the TBR” level SO MANY. This is both the great benefit and great curse of having so many blogger friends. Y’all are bubbly and enthusiastic, and I get a ton of great recommendations, but that also means I’m DROWNING in books I want to read. For this list, I ended up just tossing up the first recommendations I thought of off the top of my head, as these are all recs I’ve received multiple times.
Gah, the movie has really ramped up the pressure on this one. I have had SO MANY PEOPLE tell me I need to read this book. Not just blogger people, either, but real-life people! I keep trying to tell myself that it’s short and I’ll probably like it, but ehhhhh…
You know who you are! (And you’re probably dang proud of yourselves, too.) Dangerous Girls has a wickedly strong following on Twitter, and the noise has only ramped up with the arrival of the companion, Dangerous Boys. I don’t think DG sounds like my kind of book, but I’ve seriously considered power-reading this book just so I can know what all the fuss is about.
I actually own this one! I’ve heard amazing things about Mr. Nix’s work from a variety of sources, so I bought a cheap paperback version of Sabriel and its sequel. Now to find time to read them.
I know. I KNOW. I’ve actually read the first book but nothing beyond that. It’s on my to-do list, okay?!
Really, pretty much everything by Rowell should be on this list. I’ve read Fangirl but haven’t gotten to her other books. Eleanor and Park has taken up the most space in my feed, though.
This book has been dominating my Twitter feed for MONTHS. Everyone is going nuts over its supposedly insane plot twist.
On this one, the “everyone” includes myself. I WANT TO READ THIS SERIES SO BADLY! I own almost the entire series, especially given all the talk of sneaky narrators and angst.
This book has a fairly impressive following on Tumblr. I’m usually not swayed when it comes to contemporary tales, but I might give this one a chance in the future.
Again, YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE. The pressure has reached epic levels over the last few days with the first book in the series dropping to $5.17 on Amazon. Alas, it is my birthday week and I am banned from buying books, but after my birthday, YOU ARE MINE, BOOK OF LIES.
I read one of Sayers’ books in college and didn’t like it. However, practically every Agatha Christie fan I’ve talked to has pushed me in Sayers’ direction. I have a couple of her books under my bed, just waiting for me.